(Howbeit / Benoit Photo & Courtesy of Santa Anita)

From Santa Anita Media Team:

A Grade II winner two starts back, Mark Glatt’s reformed claimer Howbeit rates a big look in Sunday’s Grade III, $200,000 Palos Verdes Stakes at Santa Anita. Santa Anita’s traditional opening day feature for decades, the iconic Palos Verdes has attracted a field of six older horses at six panels and will be run for the 71st time.

Claimed for $32,000 12 starts back here on Feb. 13, 2021, Howbeit, at age six, seems to be ready for his best in 2023 with Mike Smith back aboard for the third consecutive time. Fourth, beaten 3 ½ lengths in a tough classified allowance going six furlongs Nov. 20 at Del Mar, Howbeit returns to a track he’s proven effective—winning four races while second twice and third once from 12 tries.

Owned by It Pays to Dream Racing Stables, Inc., Howbeit, a full horse by top sprinter Secret Circle, is 26-7-3-2 overall.

Bob Baffert’s Hopkins is in top form and with Juan Hernandez riding back, looms the likely favorite as he makes his seventh career start. Favored in four of his six starts, Hopkins, a 5-year-old full horse by Quality Road, dueled throughout as the 6-5 favorite in a six furlong allowance here Jan. 15, finishing second by a head to Glatt’s Traegar in a game effort.

Miscast going a mile and one sixteenth in the Grade II San Antonio on Dec. 26, Hopkins is much better sprinting and if he runs back to his second place effort at six furlongs on Jan. 15, he should be extremely tough to beat.

Owned by SF Racing, LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, LLC, et al, Hopkins is 6-2-3-0 overall.

Trainer Dan Blacker’s Straight No Chaser might be the quickest of the quick and it’ll be up to Edwin Maldonado to ration his gas as he exits a seventh place finish behind Eclipse Award finalist Taiba in the opening day Grade I Malibu on Dec. 26.

A 4-year-old colt by Speightster, Straight No Chaser broke his maiden first time out going five furlongs on turf this past July 24 at Del Mar and has run on dirt in his last two starts, including a stellar allowance score here going 6 ½ furlongs on Oct. 29.

Owned by MyRacehorse, Straight No Chaser is two for four lifetime.


Race 7 of 9 Approximate post time 3:30 p.m. PT

  1. Straight No Chaser—Edwin Maldonado—120
  2. Hopkins—Juan Hernandez—120
  3. Howbeit—Mike Smith—124
  4. Escape Route—Geovanni Franco—120
  5. Radical Right—Flavien Prat—120
  6. McLaren Vale—Kazushi Kimura—120

First post time for a nine-race card on Sunday is at 12:30 p.m. with admission gates opening at 10:30 a.m.